Welcome to New Jersey Devils News & Rumors, a new weekly segment that will be released every Friday this season. After an 0-2 record to start the season, things have gone well for the Devils who have won four of their last five contests.
Hockey analysts are loving the underlying numbers of the Devils through the first two weeks of the season, and Mike Kelly of the NHL Network even had them ranked fifth on his power rankings behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights, Carolina Hurricanes, and Dallas Stars.
Devils Injury Updates & Latest Roster Moves
Ahead of the Devils’ matchup against the Detroit Red Wings, the club announced that forward Ondrej Palat would be out of the lineup with a lower-body injury. After the game head coach Lindy Ruff stated, “we’ll have an update on him sometime [Thursday], but right now he’s out.”
On Thursday the Devils held a 5:00 P.M. practice and Palat was noticeably absent. Afterward, Ruff met with the media and shared that they are doing further evaluations on the 31-year-old and there should be an update in the next few days.
The vacancy that Palat left in Detroit meant that Fabian Zetterlund got an opportunity to not only jump back into the lineup, but also play on the top line alongside Tomas Tatar and Nico Hischier. He made the most of his opportunity by recording a team-leading seven shots on goal, including three high-danger chances playing 13:41. Alexander Holtz found himself back in the lineup as well and got an opportunity to play alongside Yegor Sharangovich and Dawson Mercer. His overall performance was not as strong as Zetterlund’s, which begs the question if he will soon be reassigned to the American Hockey League (AHL).
In addition to Palat, goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood was also absent from the Devils’ Thursday evening practice. Team reporter Amanda Stein shared that he is dealing with an upper-body injury and is day to day. Jonathan Bernier participated in his first practice this season as did emergency backup goaltender Kyle Shapiro. Both aforementioned goaltenders shared one net while Vitek Vanecek occupied the other.
32 Thoughts: The Podcast
On Monday’s episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek briefly discussed the Devils and their start. Friedman stated the team’s underlying numbers are really strong, as has Blackwood’s early performance, but as it was pointed out to him, the Devils’ schedule to start the season is fairly easy with regards to facing last season’s playoff teams.
There might not be a more important player in the league to his team this year than Mackenzie Blackwood.– Elliotte Friedman
Related: Devils’ Offensive Numbers Show Plenty of Promise
Throughout October, the Devils are scheduled to face only two teams who were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and that’s the Washington Capitals (who they suffered a 6-3 loss to) and the Colorado Avalanche who they will face tonight at Prudential Center. Defenseman Brendan Smith understands how important it is to earn those early points, regardless of the opponent, and during a discussion we had a few weeks ago he said that it would be one of the focal points he would be emphasizing to the young club.
Update on Severson’s Contract
As fans know, defenseman Damon Severson is playing on an expiring contract. His name floated around during the trade deadline last season, but general manager Tom Fitzgerald never confirmed if there were any discussions about the defenseman. Friedman stated that he is hearing that the issue with bringing the 6-foot-2 blueliner back to New Jersey will be term. Severson will turn 29 ahead of next season and the Devils have Simon Nemec and Luke Hughes in the pipeline. This will be an interesting storyline to keep up with as the season progresses.
PK Subban’s Future in the NHL
NHL Chief Content Officer, Steve Mayer, joined Friedman and Marek and discussed the former Devils’ blueliner during the latest episode of 32 Thoughts.
“We’re actually quite excited because we’ve been awarded the production at NHL Original Productions to produce PK’s Places, which is the hockey version of Peyton’s Places.”
For those who are unfamiliar, Peyton’s Places is a football-themed documentary series hosted by legendary quarterback Peyton Manning. Mayer said that production will begin this fall, but fans will have to wait until May 2023 for the documentary to air.
Catching Up With the Comets
The Devils’ AHL affiliate Utica Comets suffered a loss in their season opener against the Hershey Bears on Oct. 15, but beat the Cleveland Monsters in their home opener at Adirondack Bank Center on Oct. 21. Andreas Johnsson has been playing on the second line with Graeme Clarke and Tyce Thompson, and has four points (one goal, three assists) in three games. His four points have him tied for the team lead along with Brian Pinho.
The team is coming off a 2-1 loss to the Providence Bruins and will look to jump back into the win column tonight against the Cleveland Monsters in Utica. Reporter Ben Birnell shared that he spoke to Mason Geertsen, who just appeared in his 301st AHL game, about the coaching staff in Utica. The 27-year-old said that Kevin Dineen, Ryan Parent, and Andrew Brewer are some of the best he has experienced and that some of his personal focus is to help the younger players progress.
That’s all for this week’s news & rumors. Be sure to check back next week to find out the latest happenings surrounding the Devils.